It’s been over a decade since the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and since then the District has seen several other gun control laws tossed into the dustbin of history, including its “good cause” requirement for concealed carry licenses. Still, no one would mistake Washington, D.C. for a gun-friendly place. There are still plenty of restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms in place, and there’s not a single gun store or publicly accessible range anywhere within the D.C. borders.
One gun owner, however, is hoping to change that. Walker Dunn wants to open a range in the heart of D.C. not far from the Capitol One Arena and the bustling Chinatown neighborhood, and sounds optimistic that he’ll be able to make it happen.
Lunn said he has talked to the folks at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, D.C. police and the city zoning folks to get approval for his shooting club, and he said the paperwork and laws are moving in his favor.
And he has the clientele. More than 4,000 people obtained concealed-carry permits in D.C. in the past few years, most of them from Maryland and Virginia. One of them is Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who made a great show of carrying her Glock while walking around Capitol Hill.
But he’s not after the Wild West theme of Boebert’s restaurant in Rifle, Colo.
And it’s not going to be a Bat Cave.
“We’re staying away from tactical-inspired design,” he said. “We don’t want to create an experience that is about combat. I want to bring it back to that French countryside feeling. You’ve got your fresh quail, your cheese and your wine. It creates a whole new perspective.”
Yep. Dunn tells the Washington Post‘s Petula Dvorak that he’s hoping to “create something unique and fun, something like a Parisian tea shop” where you can “walk into a nice cafe and you can try out some firearms. You can buy some firearms and you can enjoy some time with some friends while you’re there.”
Now, high-end gun ranges (also known as “guntry clubs”) have been popping up around the country with increasing frequency over the past few years, so the idea of a gun shop/range/restaurant isn’t all that crazy, though I don’t know about using Parisian tea shops as the inspiration. Still, if that’s what Dunn is hoping to build, I’m rooting for him to get the chance to do so. Dvorak, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to be a fan.
“For me, shooting sports is heritage and tradition, something passed down through my family,” said Lunn, who grew up in New Jersey shooting quail with a double-barreled shotgun. “Because of that, it was never a political issue.”
And I get that. The smell of sage will always bring me back to shooting jack rabbits with my dad in the Nevada desert. My Czech air rifle is still in my old bedroom, a full can of Crosman .177 pellets waiting.
There is nostalgia and history around guns, sure. Sorry, “shooting sports.” Lunn, like many other responsible, recreational gun owners, asks that I use shooting sports rather than guns.
Our culture has changed; the use of guns has changed. In a nation where 31,606 people have died by gunfire — in homicides and suicides — already this year, I don’t think of that sweet smell of sage in the desert with my dad. I can only think of the unshakable stench of death.
I don’t know how old Petula Dvorak is, but in previous columns she’s identified as Generation X, so let’s assume that she’s somewhere between 40 and 50, which would place her memories of hunting rabbits in the desert with her dad sometime in the mid-80s to mid-90s. While Dvorak seems to believe that things were better back then, the truth is that our nation’s homicide rate was far higher than it is today. Between 1985 and 1995, the lowest the homicide rate ever reached was 8.0 per 100,000. In 2019 it was 5.0 per 100,000; a substantial decline by any measure.
The simple truth is that the United States (and Washington, D.C. itself) was a much more violent place when Dvorak and I (also a proud Gen X-er) were kids. Between the early 1990s and 2020 violent crime and homicide rates declined by almost 50%, and even with the surge in violence that began in June of last year, we’re nowhere close to the crime rates of 30 years ago.
I suspect that’s of little importance to Dvorak, who seems to believe that providing a place for gun owners to get training and practice their marksmanship is only going make the District a more dangerous place. Frankly, I’m more than a little skeptical that the city will allow Dunn to open up his business in the heart of D.C., but even if he does manage to get the District to sign off, the establishment of a gun range isn’t going to lead to more “gun violence,” though it might very well lead to more concealed carry holders in the District who are armed for self-defense.